From aerobics instructors to retired National Guard members and organists, teachers lead more interesting lives than what meets the eye.
By: Taylor Rigney
Mrs. Kelly always planned on being a teacher, even from a young age. “I’ve known for a really long time that I wanted to be a teacher, and I’ve always loved French, and I just wanted to share that with others,” said Mrs. Kelly, or Madame Kelly as she’s more commonly referred to by her French students. If you took Spanish as your foreign language credit, you really missed out, because Mrs. Kelly is a passionate teacher, and she makes it obvious that she genuinely loves her job and cares about her students. She makes learning a foreign language fun through her creative songs and interactive activities, while also taking the time to make sure each of her students fully understands the concepts she is teaching. Never accepting less than 100% from herself, she expects the same from her students. In fact, many previous French students who took her class went on to place on the National French Exam. “The most rewarding part of teaching is seeing that light bulb go off when a student finally understands something,” she said. Even last year, Mrs. Kelly never slowed down, up until the day she left for maternity leave. She even did some “extra credit” work, teaching an aerobics class at her church when she was 8 months pregnant! As you can see, it’s not easy to break Mrs. Kelly’s energetic and optimistic personality.
Born and raised in Clinton, Mississippi, Jennifer Kelly, then Jennifer White, attended Clinton High School. It was there that Mrs. Kelly first discovered her love for the French language while taking her very first French class in the ninth grade. “It was just a pretty language, and I had always taken ballet, so I guess that’s one reason why I liked it. I also just really like words,” she says. It was also at Clinton High School that Mrs. Kelly met her husband, Ryan, whom she started dating when they were both juniors. Mrs. Kelly describes herself as a teenager in high school as “the ‘nice girl.” I was the girl that everybody knew, but I didn’t really hang out with the ‘in’ crowd. I didn’t really belong to a specific group either.” After high school, Mrs. Kelly went on to attend the University of Southern Mississippi, where she majored in French and was even lucky to get the chance to live in France and study abroad during college. “It was different, but really fun. I loved being immersed in the language and having to use it all the time,” Mrs. Kelly said of her time in France.
Now, when she isn’t teaching French, an aerobics class, coaching the girls’ cross country team, or even going for a nice run, Mrs. Kelly mostly enjoys relaxing at home and spending time with her husband and five-month-old daughter, Elizabeth Anne. Mrs. Kelly, a USM graduate, is also a huge Southern Miss fan (if the many black and gold posters with Coach Fedora’s picture on them hanging in her classroom didn’t already give that fact away). You can catch her at The Rock for any home game, cheering on the Eagles. If she’s not supporting her team, however, Mrs. Kelly is probably taking it easy at home, watching one of her favorite romantic comedies, or her guilty pleasure, The Bachelor. “It’s kind of embarrassing to admit that I like to watch it, but I do,” a laughing Mrs. Kelly said of the reality TV show.
Obviously, Mrs. Kelly has a rare and refreshingly optimistic view about her job, and life in general, for that matter.
By: Sydney Sanders
Mr. Kendrick is the comedian and wisecracker among faculty, staff, and students at OGHS. On what many might classify as a good day, students walk into class to find their teacher absent, and in the teacher’s place is Charles Kendrick, known to many as Coach K.
Usually, the first thing students notice is the name Mr. Kendrick$ on the board. Soon after follows one of Mr. Kendrick’s many amusing stories.
“Hey, class. I’m Mr. Kendrick, your substitute.” Kendrick says as he points to the board. “Many of you put an ‘s’ at the end of my name, but unfortunately, my family is not rich. I often tell folks, if you have an ‘s’ at the end of your last name, you’re a wealthy person.”
Although Kendrick retired in 1998 as a coach at West Marion, he commutes from Columbia daily to substitute here.
“To tell the truth, I love teaching so much I would probably still come without pay,” Kendrick said. “But, don’t tell Mr. Folkes that!”
A native of Columbia, Kendrick coached girls’ basketball for several years and taught physical education and history. He taught alongside his wife, Barbara, for several years at West Marion. “I was married to Barbara on October 30th,” Kendrick said. “It was so close to Halloween, you could say I got tricked!”
Basketball has always been a passion of Kendrick’s. He played center and forward at Hub High School and once led a victory against Varnado High School, scoring 46 points alone. With a full basketball scholarship to PRCC, Kendrick played for two years until he ruptured a disc. He played alongside LCSD Assisant Superintendent Carolyn Adams’s brother, Clinton, and won the state championship against Itawamba his freshman year. He received a Bachelor’s degree from USM and a Master’s degree from Mississippi State in counseling. He also served in the National Guard for 22 years.
Kendrick started at Oak Grove soon after the new high school was built in 2000. “I decided to come check the school out,” Kendrick said. “Folkes beat me so many times when we were coaching girls’ basketball against each other; he had to give me the job.”
Outside of school, Kendrick enjoys keeping up with sports and spending time with his two children, three grandchildren, and Shih-Tzu, Teddy.
Although, Kendrick is a fan of war movies, gospel music, and Fox and Friends, his passion is teaching. “The years I coached were the most rewarding times in my career,” Kendrick said. “I always hated going away on trips, though. My team never had many victories often, and I wanted to win for the team’s sake more than anyone. Coaching has taught me a lot about sportsmanship in life.”
By: Lauren Pace
Mr. Cooley is from the quaint town of Lumberton, Mississippi. After graduating from Pearl River Community College and the University of Southern Mississippi with a music education degree, he began to work at a neighboring school district before coming to Oak Grove. Aside from being a music director, he is also a bus driver at Oak Grove.
Mr. Cooley doesn’t have any “hobbies” per se, but he is very involved with activities at his church. He is the organist and director of music for his church and he plays the piano for a Christian ensemble. An interesting fact about Mr. Cooley that most students do not know is that when he eats cereal with milk, he puts lots of ice in with it. “It keeps it cold,” laughed Cooley.
Mr. Cooley is very passionate about teaching. “Seeing students that I’ve taught over the years becoming successful individuals is the most rewarding part about teaching. However, the most frustrating part of teaching is trying to convey my wonderful knowledge to students when they are off in their own world, wherever that is. I’m afraid to know,” said Cooley. “My most memorable moment was when one of my former students came to me and told me how much I was an inspiration to him across the years,” said Cooley.
When Mr. Cooley was in high school, he was known as the “average Joe”, and a band geek. It may be surprising that he was often notorious for being a clown and a prankster.
Like many, Mr. Cooley’s favorite movies are all of the Madea movies. He enjoys pretty much all genres of music, that are decent. Also, he is fond of all oldie television shows. He loves to read anything that is attention-grabbing.
Mr. Cooley is one of the many people that make Oak Grove High School special. His excitement and passion for sharing education with others is what really makes a teacher unique. Oak Grove High School is honored to have teachers like Mr. Cooley.